Dealing with the Tough Part of Writing
How is a writer to get from that initial glut of ideas to the exact wording publishers demand? There IS a way! And I discovered it on a recent trip to the Oregon coast.
I work with writers who struggle crafting their original mass of juicy ideas into a shining bright book ready for publication. Sometimes it is difficult for them to get from here to there, and my job is helping them make that transition. But even editors need a break and a few days off seemed in order.
Along with friends, I headed for the Oregon coast to see the impressive Sea Stack rocks, but upon arriving our gaze immediately riveted on a fluttering opalescent miniature flock of transparent creatures that drifted over the sand with each breezy gust! What are these marvelous things? we wondered.
We hurried to catch up with them, noticing along the way another marvel: small, glistening, deep blue-to-purple jellyfish-looking things, nothing like we’d seen before. We were soon photographing both creatures, until we all looked about, noses crinkling in disgust.
“What IS that?” someone asked.
It turned out the little purple things and tissue-thin white fly-bys were, in fact, the same creature. They are Velella, also called by-the-wind sailors or purple sails. In their live, ocean-dwelling state, their fleshy, deeply colored bodies are gorgeous royal blue. A small rigid sail can be raised to catch the wind for other waters, making them also subject to stranding on beaches (like along the U.S. Pacific coast this year). Out of water they die, and only their delicate fins remain to whisk them across the sand, like beach butterflies.
They are gorgeous, full of life and promise at their beginning—and delicate, delightful beauties in the end. But, oh my, the in-between process? It produced a nasty odor that filled the air! And I mean Big Time.
Then it hit me: writers start with the fullest of plots and colorful characters, certain that every bit of their plans absolutely must be part of the final book. Yet readers want just the high-flying, iridescent beauty of the story, something they can chase across the pages, stripped of everything by the sheer joy of the story’s core.
Getting from that mass of great ideas to the finished book requires, well, a rather disgusting process—much like that of the dying Velella. It involves revision, reduction, editing, rewriting and, again, rewriting. Yuck! What writer wanted THAT to happen? They just wanted the original story in their minds to translate perfectly into a finished product. Well, life—and writing—doesn’t always smell like a bed of roses.
So here are ways to deal with that tough and unsavory in-between process of writing:
- Accept that there IS an in-between process—and that it isn’t pleasant! All writers go through it. You’ll get used to it after a while… sort of. Eventually (by your third or fourth book) you will (almost) look forward to digging in to the revisions and honing the first draft into that final one.
- Remember that nothing is lost! The character you can’t use in this book can slip into the next. The plot idea that isn’t meshing in this one will wait for you in your “Later Ideas” file for another story.
- Keep your eye on the goal: a clean and clear and stunning story. With that visualization in mind, you’ll realize that the end result is worth this uncomfortable in-between stage.
- Get help. Okay, here is my (brief) sales pitch: There is no shame or harm in getting professional help in the editing process, especially for your first book. A professional editor can get you on the right track faster and with more confidence than plugging away on your own.
So get out that clothes pin for your nose as you face the less-than-refreshing prospect of revisions and changes. It is just part of the process that sets your great ideas free of the tides of your mind and sails them into view for readers.
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